The first week of April I had the opportunity to travel with my Enactus team to Cincinnati for the Enactus national conference. Enactus is an organization on college campuses across the US (and even internationally) that brings together people who want to use the business model for social good. We are business students for the most part, but some other majors as well, and business leaders from an array of corporate sponsors -- mostly large midwest - headquartered companies like Sam's Club, Kraft, Hersey, Campbells, Coca-Cola, Walmart, ... you get the picture. Anyway, throughout the year we all work on projects of our own undertaking (with a budget provided by our university and supplemented with grants we apply for), and then in the spring, people from each team travel to Cincinnati to present on the work they have done. There are several rounds of judging and then the final 4 teams present to everyone in attendance-- which was around 5,000 people this year.
EN - ACT - US: entrepreneurial, action, us
So I was going. And I wasn't really sure how this was going to go -- flying and staying in a hotel for a week with a group of college students...??! -- but after Caicos I told myself that I needed to be more open to new things like this and willing to get to know people beyond my safe circles. Caicos taught me that I can actually have some really neat and meaningful connections with people and I miss out on those opportunities when I am too intimidated to be part of the group. This trip was also the week after spring break (week 1 of classes) so that posed a bit more challenge in trying to make up the first week of the term.
Anyway, traveling to Cincinnati was uneventful but long-- since the team had to pay for 20 plane tickets, we flew to Cleveland which was cheaper and then drove to Cincinnati-- which adds up to many many many hours traveling. After checking in to the hotel, we got our schedules for the week and sat around talking. I didn't know the girls in my room very well, but I felt pretty good about our team as a whole because the mission of Enactus attracts some really nice people.
That evening set the tone for a wonderful week. Us girls in my room had some amazingly open conversations for people coming together from completely different backgrounds, personalities, and hardly knowing each other before the week. God gave me some great opportunities to be a light for Him and I was shocked at myself to see how comfortable I felt -- IN CHRIST -- to share. My time in Caicos really changed me and made me willing and WANTING to tell the world about my awesome Father!
Tuesday and Wednesday were spent at the convention center, very formal, listening to other teams present (while our own speaking team presented for OSU) and meeting recruiters at the career fair. There are truly some amazing projects going on out there: one college started a bakery in Haiti for Haitian women to bake bread and sell it wholesale since the nearest bakery is 2 hours away; another school started a thrift store for college students to buy and trade their old furniture, clothes, and belongings; yet another school started a food truck called Mobile Loaves and Fishes which is staffed by homeless people to give them some income. This whole conference just pumped me up for all the good we can do if we just put our minds to it... these are 20-year-olds coming up with this stuff!
Our team made it to the top 40 (out of 500) and then we were cut Wednesday afternoon. But that meant that we could all go out to dinner as a team for once (our speaking team didn't have to stay sequestered in the hotel room practicing). After a good 3 hour dinner with lots of talking and planning for next year, we decided to have "team bonding" in one of the hotel rooms. One of the girls I was rooming with is in a sorority and she had all sorts of little talking points for us to go around and share to learn more about each other. While everyone started out joking around and laughing, the mood soon settled into a caring seriousness-- everyone really wanted to be there and get to know people on a deeper level. And it was absolutely incredible what people started sharing. There were tears, there were emotions, there were years and years of troubled psyches that opened up that night. One girl had wanted to commit suicide in high school; one guy explained that he tries to be the life of the party because he had been racially stereotyped and ridiculed his whole life and just wanted to fit in; one girl--the sorority girl-- said that you can call her any name you want-- fat, ugly, anything-- and it rubs right off but if you call her stupid she will break down because people have insinuated she is stupid her whole life; one girl has a friend on death row; another girl grew up with only her dad because her older brother-- who was her best friend-- went to Costa Rica, jumped off a waterfall, hit his head on some rocks, and died; another guy had a track partner and the one day he decided to run with a different group, his partner was hit by a car and killed instantly.... the stories kept pouring out. It was crazy. There were some growth stories, and some moments of light, but throughout I kept thinking : Why is (my) life so beautiful? God orchestrated this amazing thing and placed us each here individually, and brought me and this hodge-podge group of people into that hotel room to talk. And I felt so small and so blessed and so alive. My life is a fairy tale alongside such sadness -- and so much sadness for one group.
I had the chance to share a little about myself and I felt it would help them all understand me better if I was completely open about my faith and perspective. Since this was a group of college students and the relationship question invariably comes up, I decided to share about faith based marriages. I have never voluntarily had this conversation with anyone before, but it was actually such a blessing! It opened doors for people to ask more questions and for them to realize that I was completely open to talking about my faith. The respect that people have when they hear of something like this -- that is wholly unusual and so clearly of God -- is amazing to see.
After what ended up being 6 HOURS of bonding, we all finally crashed around 2 am. But since we were out of the official competition, we could sleep in and have a late brunch before going to watch the final 4 presentations. Then we packed our stuff out and headed in rental vans back to Cleveland for our flight out the next morning. In all, it was a good growth trip for me. I really connected with my hotel roommate, the sorority girl, though we both admitted that we were the last people we expected to have commonalities with. Just goes to show that appearances are definitely not everything. God is working in my heart and I hope I am learning that lesson.
I'm a twenty-something from the Pacific NW making home in new places as I follow where God leads.
My intent is to show Christ's love to the world and use business to solve some of the social problems we face: hunger, illiteracy, healthcare, economic hardship. For now, I'm in a stage of learning. A little adventuring, a few books, some good friends, and a whole lot of prayer and life runs on.